Mariano Rivera's Farewell Tour Shifts From Baseball To Business

New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera’s final season in pinstripes could be considered to have been a season-long farewell tour. Rivera was treated with grace by his opposition, their fans and pretty much anybody who crossed his path. It was well-deserved. The closer is responsible for roughly 20 years of lights-out performances, serving as a worthy ambassador for baseball in his home of Panama and on a more grand scale, being an excellent display of courage, ability and perseverance for the entire sport of baseball.

Rivera would likely be able to live with the reference — that his final year in Major League Baseball was his “farewell tour” — yet, maybe not thrilled with the phrase. Throughout his Hall of Fame career he was always very low-key and was never one to overly commercialize himself or over-saturate his brand. In fact, Mariano Rivera would probably despise the idea that he is a brand. He was a pitcher, a dominant closer, first and foremost. But even those who are humble and unselfish must realize the value that their publicity rights possess. Brandon Steiner, a sports marketing and memorabilia expert helped the benevolent Rivera understand his worth and how he could finally exploit the value of his name, autograph and likeness for the benefit of others.

Steiner, who serves as CEO of Steiner Sports and has worked with Mariano Rivera since around 1997, put together an off-the-field official “Mariano Rivera Farewell Tour,” which began as a project for Steiner 2 years ago and really expanded this past Spring Training when Rivera announced that the 2013 MLB season would be his final year playing professional baseball. The Steiner Sports client list is a sight to be seen. It includes Hank Aaron, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Muhammad Ali and Marcus Allen, among 34 other players — and that only counts those players whose last names begin with the letter “A”. So when Steiner told me that he has never put together a product line better than the Mariano Rivera Farewell Tour, he had my undivided attention.

“His product line with us has been incredible,” said Steiner to FORBES. ”He’s never been a guy who really likes to do a lot of business, but this year he was a little more open to doing things with fans and licensing. We created as many as 40 different items with 20-or-so licenses of figurines, to different kinds of photos and artwork, to commemorate his final season.”

Items in the Mariano Rivera Farewell Tour collection also include an autographed “Exit Sandman” Sports Illustrated Cover, a variety of autographed baseballs and a few signed replica lineup cards. It is approximated that $2 million will be raised for the Mariano Rivera Foundation from the Steiner/Rivera joint effort.

“The focus now is family, community, faith — the church and [Rivera's] foundation over the past 5 years have become a much bigger priority and level of focus for him,” explained Steiner. ”We were a little nervous because he is so low key, but it’s been amazing to see the number of people reaching out and just wanting to make a donation. It is the highest level of respect that I’ve seen in a long time for a player.”

Rivera will likely retain that level of respect among his peers and those who have followed his sharp breaking, cut fastball. Plans are in the works for FOX to air a show on Mariano Rivera’s life over the last few months of his career. ”He’s never really allowed that kind of access,” said Steiner, who is well aware of Rivera’s disinclination to bring cameras into his personal life. ”Until this year I can’t even remember him doing many interviews quite frankly.” Steiner also plans on booking appearances for Rivera, but says, “he’s not like ‘Brandon let’s go, go get me some work.’”

Most importantly, Mariano will not ride off into the sunset and be gone or forgotten any time soon. He may not be saving games, but with his charity work and ability to raise funds through his farewell tour, he hopes to be saving lives.

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